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Ancient horse's DNA fills in picture of equine evolution

A 700,000-year-old fossil proves astoundingly well preserved

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5:28pm, June 26, 2013

Przewalski's horses (one shown in Mongolia) are the last truly wild species of horse, a new study of ancient DNA suggests.

A frozen fossil of a horse has yielded the oldest genome sequence ever compiled. Clocking in at about 700,000 years old, the horse DNA is nearly 10 times older than the previous record holder, the genome of an 80,000-year-old Denisovan, an extinct evolutionary cousin of Neandertals and modern people.

The extreme age of the horse’s genetic material has raised hopes that scientists can find even more primitive DNA, perhaps a million years old or more. The ancient DNA also provides scientists with some of the first clues about the genetic changes that accompanied horse domestication.

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